Friday, 7 March 2014

Review: Danganronpa:Trigger Happy Havoc

Your adventure starts when you get introduced as Makato Neagi. You've been accepted to the prestigious school of Hope's peak ( how ironic) , a school that only accepts the most talented "Ultimate" students of various fields each year. The strange thing about this is that Makato isn't talented in anything, after seemingly winning a competition he is dubbed "The Ultimate Lucky Student" and granted his admission . The moment he arrives at the main hall he faints and losses consciousness. He wakes up at a class room within Hope's peak. Before he even has a clue what happened a mysterious bear called Monokuma greets them and tells them they are trapped within Hope's peak and can only escape " graduate" by killing all the other students without being discovered! And so began the fight of Makato against the common enemy despair.

School life is divided into two parts in Hope's Peak. The first part is your daily life. Getting up and eating breakfast with the other students while discussing how to escape Hope's Peak. While your daily life is taking place you can explore the school and develop friendships with the other students. Those events are called free time. At freetime you have the chance to talk to the other students and develop friendships or strenghten the bonds you already had.
By doing so you can unlock stories about the other students and unlock abilities you can  use with the class trial. These abilities or skills can be used in your advantage to make things easier in the class trial. Thus, it is wise to use your free time wisely and make bonds. An example for this is the skill called Breathing Exercises.

This skill helps you to refill the concentration gauge which helps you with the school trials. I will explain this further in the part about school trial. This friend making  system does sound familiar huh? Talking to other people and develop friendships are very similar to the Persona S-link system. As you know i am a fan of the social link system.
However, making friends part feels a bit off in this game. It hasn't be executed as it should therefore it just felt out of place. I don't mind a similar social link system in this game but it has to be executed correctly. I felt a little bit shallow but it didn't ruin my enjoyment of this game.
Which takes me to the character, The development of the characters is something you don't come across in many games.
Every character has their own story which will develop when the further you are in the story. The stories are believable and very well written, despite the over dramatisation of the characters they become quite relate-able and it becomes a joy to track down each character's story.

The second half of the game consists of the "Trial" phase, once certain in-game conditions are met, Monokuma will call a "Class Trial". From that moment you have to investigate the murder case before the class trial starts. If the killer or "blackened" isn't discovered all will be punished. This is one of the rules Monokuma has come up with. However, if the blackened is discovered the killer will be executed in a certain way. You'll be searching rooms and questioning speech in the detective mode, making sure you have a firm grasp on what has happened before you stand trial. If you found a clue you can use this clue with the class trial. Every clue becomes a truth bullet which you can use in the school trial. The investigation event is also a great way to explore every room for hints. For those with enough patience checking every corner will be rewarded with Monokuma coins which can be spend in the Monkuma store in the MonoMono machine which gives you presents. Those presents can be used to give to friends to further deepen your relationship with them. (this can also be used in Free-Time)

The murders in Dangonronpa are often very brutal and always sudden. Furthermore, the blackened are the students you just don't expect to do such cruel things. This helps to spice up the game since you absolutely don't have a clue who did it before the class trial. Even when the class trial started you could be totally wrong.
The soundtracks in this game are pure quality. It hasn't have a varied selection but those never seem to get old. After a couple of hours playing you will be humming a couple of these awesome tunes.
The graphics are a feast for the eyes. Everything is in 2D but the game will give you the illusion that you're in a 3D environment, I especially enjoyed this as every scene seemed vibrant and bright despite it's gloomy nature.

"If you can figure out "whodunnit" then only they will receive punishment. But you pick the wrong one.. Then I'll punish everyone besides the blackened, and that one that deceived everyone will graduate!"  - Sincere Monokuma.  

This disturbing sentence shocked me at first and made the class trial that more exciting. The school Trials are my favourite part of this game. The school trial starts with the court preparation. In the court preparation you can prepare yourself before you start the school trial. You can open your e -handbook and revisit the clues you discovered with your investigation and you can set your skills ( abilities, which you could unlock by deepening friendships). 
As i already mentioned above the skills you set can be an advantage for you. The example i already mentioned is breathing exercises this helps you to refill the concentration gauge. If you prepared yourself and you are convinced to solve the crime you can start the trail. The trail has different sort of mini games which are Non stop debate, multiple choice, insight anagram , choose word bullet and machine gun talk. The first one non stop debate starts with everyone telling their arguments what happened or why they haven't done it.

You need to find the students who is lying. You do this by shooting a truth bullet ( the clue you found) on the yellow letters ( the lie) to prove them wrong. After you done this Makato tells them why there argument is wrong and the school trial goes further.  While you are shooting your Truth bullet there are messages that are trying to distract you from the truth. By pushing the X button you can destroy those distractions but at a cost of time penalty. Furthermore, you have a concentration gauge. By pushing R1 you can concentrate which equals to slow motion. This helps you to be certain to hit the contradiction or lie of the person you are trying to prove wrong. 
If your time is up you will be voted as the blackened and if you accused someone of lying without proving it with the right evidence you will given a penalty. After 3 or 4 penalties the other students of Hope's Peak don't trust you anymore and you will be voted as the blackened.  

The other minigames I mentioned are a fun distraction and changes the pace of the game. This helps to keep your attention the whole time because this way the game prevents itself from being repetitive. Especially, the machine gun talk was very interesting. The person you are accusing is in denial and while throw everything at you to prove you wrong. You only need to stay calm and don't button bash and everything will be fine. The other mini game insight anagram is seeking the right word which also helps to keeps things fresh. The most interesting one is choose word bullet it's the same mode as non stop debate but now you have multiple bullets to choose from. This means finding the lying person isn't the only thing you need to do but you also need to seek the right argument otherwise you get a penalty for accusing someone without evidence.

However, with the class trials I found there was too much hand holding. Every time a new part of the school trial came up the game wants to help you with explaining everything. I like games where you don't have to waste precious time with overly tedious tutorials. 
Furthermore, with every school trial the game gave you hints after you didn't discovered the lie in the arguments. I didn't like that because i wanted things to seek out myself. This happens every time and made the game less difficult and took away some of the feeling that I'd accomplished something because if you solved it yourself it would be so much more rewarding.

I really enjoyed the gameplay in this title, At first you think it's your typical visual novel but don't judge this book by it''s cover. The Freetime was a good inclusion because you can explore and make friends which helps to keep things fresh. 
However, i didn't like the way they handled the social interactions, It wasn't as executed as it should and came across feeling a little shallow. Still I found the characters to be entertaining and very well written. The murders are very brutal and always sudden which i liked, It really surprised me how the murders were executed.  
Graphics and sound are excellent. The soundtrack will make you humming after some playthroughs, I found it looked and sounded a little too much like Persona 4 thus affecting it's indentity somewhat,The investigation and the school trials are the parts of this game that were the highlights of this game. The investigation because it felt like zero escape and the school trials felt like Phoenix Wright. 

However handholding held this back somewhat, Every time I failed to come up with an argument against the person who was lying or telling a contradiction the game gave me the most obvious hints. It made solving the murder crime less rewarding.  

All in all the story for this was a real driving force, if you like gritty scenarios and well written characters this game stands tall above the Vita's ever expanding library  


Hope and despair mingled together... Opening the world of the future....

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